Binge eating is a very common and often times very damaging side affect of living a healthy lifestyle. All of us have been prone to binge eating from time to time. How then can we prevent binge eating and all the negative consequences that come with it.
Before we can talk about how to prevent binge eating, first we need to know why we do it in the first place. All of you who have read my blog from time to time or for a while now, know exactly how I feel about dieting. Diets do not teach you how to live a healthy lifestyle. Most are very restrictive and in the end, people that take on these diets generally end up gaining all of their weight back plus a few pounds for good measure. Either way, whether you are trying the newest fad diet or you are actually living a healthier lifestyle (the two are not the same by the way) binge eating can wreak havoc on what you are doing. How many times have you said or heard someone else say, “I have had such a great week and then we went to (___________) <——-(insert location here) and it all fell apart. Now I am going to need to go to the gym and run 100 miles to burn off everything that I just ate over the weekend.
We can solve this problem by not necessarily restricting ourselves throughout the week. One day of binge eating can ruin all the good you did for the previous week or so…Binge eating is defined as the uncontrolled ingestion of large quantities of food in a short period of time, often accompanied by a feeling out of control over the eating taking place. We have all done it and most of us will do it again. There are 4 specific days that I overeat. I know these days are coming and I plan ahead for them. Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday and the 4th of July. These are days where I don’t care about what I eat or drink, I throw caution to the wind and have at it. But….and this is a big but, how many of us do this more than this. How many of us binge eat every few days? My solution to this is to not be so restrictive during the week. Splurge a bit here and there. But remember that portion size is key. I would much rather have you eat a portion (which is normally 1/2 cup) of ice cream 3 or 4 nights a week than eat the whole half gallon at one sitting. Here are a few more tips that you can use to prevent binge eating.
**These tips are NOT mine. These tips were pulled from an article written by Lauri Watson, a Registered Dietitian.**
- NEVER eat directly from the whole carton, bag or box. Take out your portion and put the rest away.
- For sweets and treats, use small (4 ounce) bowls and cocktail spoons or forks. A half a cup of ice cream or pie will look like a lot more food if you put it in a small bowl, rather than a large bowl with lots of extra empty space. Using smaller spoons and forks will make smaller portions last longer and slow down your eating.
- Set a kitchen timer or monitor the clock and try to extend meal times to 15-20 minutes. Take small bites and put your fork down in between bites. Have a conversation, chew slowly, etc. These strategies will allow your body to have enough time for its fullness cues to kick in. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your tummy to send a single to your brain that you are full. Remember last Thanksgiving when you gobbled down 2-3 plates of food in about 5 minutes and then regretted it 10 minutes later because your tummy felt like it was going to explode? It’s a miserable feeling, but eating slowly is the best defense to preventing it from happening again.
- Learn to differentiate between hunger and cravings. Cravings are usually for something specific (brownies, French fries, bread, candy, etc.). However, if you are truly hungry, you will most likely eat anything, including raw veggies dipped in hummus or a small handful of nuts. The lines between hunger and cravings are often blurred, especially with the abundance of food options we have in America. Listen to your body and learn to decipher between cravings and hunger.
- Sometimes, we can confuse hunger with thirst. If you find yourself staring into the fridge looking for something to eat, but don’t know what you want, you are most likely experiencing boredom cravings. Grab a glass of water and walk away.
- When a craving for a specific food strikes, have an answer for it: Go for a walk, read a good book, take a hot bath, whatever you have to do to get your mind off of the craving.
- Sometimes binge eating isn’t really about the food or the craving at all. Instead it’s more of a stress reliever after a really bad day or a difficult breakup. Often without realizing it, we eat the whole bag of cookies or that entire bowl of pasta as a coping mechanism for stress or personal struggles. One of the most important things to prevent these types of binges is to stay present. Slow down and savor each bite of food. Better yet, seek out stress relief by going for a walk around the block or taking a hot bath.
- DON’T skip meals! This is very important. Skipping meals and snacks can cause you to overeat at the next meal, and eating just one (or two) big meal per day can wreak havoc on your blood sugars and hinder weight loss. Aim for three meals per day plus one or two (based on your calorie needs) healthy snacks.
- Stay present while eating. Be aware of what you are eating and how much. Focus on your food and minimize any other distractions: Avoid eating in front of the TV or computer. Clear off the kitchen table. Don’t read, study, write or talk on the phone while you eat. By eating more mindfully, you will enjoy your meals more, notices fullness, flavor and satisfaction better than ever before, and feel less of a desire to overeat.
- Know how you respond to trigger foods. You’ll hear differing opinions about whether people prone to binge eating should keep their trigger foods in the house or far, far away. I think this depends on the person. Only YOU know your own limits. If you are the type of person that simply cannot stop at just one cookie or one serving of ice cream, it might be best to keep these foods out of the house for a while. However, I think the goal would be to work towards enjoying a small serving of a trigger food whenever a craving strikes in order to avoid the inevitable binge that usually follows bouts of restriction. For some, allowing a small serving of a trigger food throughout the week can prevent binges—because you allow it versus labeling it off-limits. Others have a harder time staying in control.